September 3rd, 2013

Forest & Wood Award Finalists - Furniture

Modern Apprentice of the Year Nominations
Jason Michie – Naturally Wood
Woodworking is a passion for Jason Michie, so much so that it was the sole reason he chose to stay at school.  Securing a job in the industry set Jason on an exciting career path.  Despite his relatively young age, Jason displays an amazing range of skills and is in charge of the workshop at Naturally Wood, a company that specialises in quality furniture and fittings for childcare facilities. 

His hardworking nature and ability to work under pressure have made Jason a real asset to the company in terms of meeting tight deadlines.  And because Jason has the necessary skills to take on jobs from the initial stages right through into the final finishing stages there is always something to keep him busy.

Jacob Walker – Workshop Manager – Innature Limited
Jacob Walker is a busy man.  As sole charge of Innature’s production, Jacob has a handle on everything – from creating new bedroom furniture designs to ordering stock to producing the finished product and making it ready to ship. 

Jacob’s focus on organising the workshop so that it is working as efficiently as possible has resulted in real productivity gains for the company.  While he’s always loved woodworking, Jacob says his apprenticeship has taught him everything he needs to know to become successful.  Several years ago Jacob tried his hand at boat building but quickly figured out it wasn’t for him.  ‘I like to see immediate results.  In boat building it took too long to get things finished, whereas furniture – a few days and it’s done.’  

Joel Garrick – Furniture Finisher – Finishers Touch
It was a family connection that led Joel into the furniture trade.  And it was a case of being thrown in the deep end with his very first job being spraying the Wellington Supreme Court.  Joel hasn’t looked back since.  Having successfully completed his apprenticeship, Joel is looking at a bright future as an outstanding tradesman in the demanding furniture finishing business. 

‘It’s taught me everything from life skills like dealing with customers to product knowledge.  In the days of leaving school I didn’t really think I could do anything.  Doing the apprenticeship showed me I can do everything.’  

Trainee of the Year Nominations
Chad Butson – Otago Furniture
Chad Butson has been involved in furniture manufacturing for a more than 18 months now.  Half way through his apprenticeship, Chad is pretty clear on what represents good design.  ‘It’s got to be functional while still being attractive to the eye.  Getting the proportions right is also important.’ 

While Chad is usually involved in large scale commercial and retail fit outs, he wanted his entry to be ‘slightly different to what we’re doing in the factory.’  His particular entry to the awards was inspired by his own need for a set of drawers.  But what started out as a basic need soon turned into a creative project in which Chad has invested over 150 hours. 

Having solved a number of challenges along the way, Chad can be proud of his achievement.  The resulting chest of drawers is truly stunning.  

Jason Michie – Naturally Wood
A macrocarpa jukebox with full download capability is not something you see every day.  As well as hugely inventive, Jason Michie’s entry to the Furniture Trainee of the Year Award is a triumph of the imagination and a testament to outstanding craftsmanship.  Now a fully qualified furniture maker, Jason has only a year to go until he completes his Level 4 Furniture/Craft Finishing qualification.  Judging by the superior finish on his jukebox, it’s obvious that Jason draws huge satisfaction from a job well done. 

His commitment to quality has helped at work too.  ‘As I’ve built up my skills, I’ve been able to offer more at work.  It’s helped to get the finishing qualification side of things.  Now I can do 100% of any job.’

Alex Rau – Molloy Custom Furniture
Alex Rau must be a very sociable man.  Certainly, the portable bar that Alex has spent many hours of overtime completing this year would make him very popular amongst friends.  That’s not to say a drinking culture was the inspiration for Alex’s creation.  He says his rolling drinks cabinet came about through necessity and solve the issue of his mother entertaining in a reasonably small space.  It’s handcrafted furniture at its best. 

Working for Molloy’s, an Auckland-based company specialising in custom furniture, has given Alex a taste for high quality one-off pieces.  If the commitment he’s shown in completing such an ambitious project is anything to go by, this is unlikely to be his last.

Training Company of the Year Nominations
Sealy New Zealand
Training is important to Sealy New Zealand for a number of reasons.  Not only does it contribute towards an employee’s personal development, but it ensures employees develop skills in line with business needs which is essential to achieving KPIs. 

Training is also seen by the company as part and parcel of sound succession planning and a way of ensuring business continuity.  As one of New Zealand’s foremost furniture manufacturers, Sealy has a commitment to grow skills within their business with all factory staff having completed a Level 2 National Certificate and the company’s management undertaking Level 4.  The benefits are enjoyed not only by the business but by the individuals themselves. 

Says Rob Hanks, Sealy’s Factory Manager, ‘They get better job satisfaction.  The average amount of time people have been here is 10 years.  Some of them have been here for up to 40 years.’   Central Joinery Limited Central Joinery is a company that fosters young talent.  Three members of the team have recently completed apprenticeships, while the company’s Machine Shop Manager and one of the top furniture polishers are also past apprentices. 

Says Shaun Simpson, General Manager, ‘We’ve done really well out of our trainees.  All our guys are in high positions and the three that have just finished are important parts of the business.’  Management values training highly and considers it one of the company goals.  ‘What we do with employees is offer training to everyone who is not qualified.  We offer something that’s incentive based, that gives them a bit of an increase as they reach milestones.’  With another three in traineeships, it seems the system is working well.